2021 Year in Review
When I wrote my annual review last year, I thought 2020 easily took the cake for “the craziest, most unpredictable year.” Looking back at 2021, I think we experienced our fair share of wild, unprecedented events that will go down in history.
We started out with Capitol riots, the Delta variant, and a new President on the horizon. By the end of the year, tornadoes, Omicron, and Kim Kardashian’s budding romance with Pete Davidson.
In between, there were so many shootings, natural disasters, and monumental court cases, I lost count. For me personally, March was one of the hardest months to follow national news because of all the anti-Asian hate incidents, one after another. When the Atlanta spa shootings happened, I remember crying: “What is wrong with this country? Didn’t we learn anything in 2020?”
Yet, despite all the tragedies we experienced as a country (and a world), there was still plenty to celebrate in 2021. Biden became President, Trump got banned from Twitter. The Oscars had their most diverse year yet. Lots of progress with environmental conservation. Huge strides in science, technology and the fight against diseases. The fact we made not one but multiple COVID-19 vaccines is amazing, and as of this Christmas, nearly 9 billion vaccines have been administered globally... quite the miracle.
Recently, I watched The First Wave, a documentary about one of New York’s hardest-hit hospitals during the first 100-day wave of the pandemic. As painful as it was to see doctors, nurses, and families desperately trying to save lives, there was also so much beauty, resilience, and love captured in every patient’s story. No matter how dire or harrowing someone’s situation was, each one had a team of heroes fighting for him/her to the end.
What got me through this difficult year and what continues to keep me going is my own team of heroes. My family, my friends, my loved ones — all the most important people in my life. This circle gets smaller each year, but infinitely stronger.
Out of all my relationships, there is one that shaped my year the most. I debated whether to share something so personal here, but it would be impossible to talk about 2021 without mentioning my partner Eric. At the risk of turning this annual review into a lame love letter, I will try to keep it brief:
I’ve dated seriously before, but this time it feels different. It’s peaceful, stable, comfortable, and comforting. There’s never a dull moment between us, but also never drama. Eric brings out the best in me and challenges me to be better. We are a team, and he feels like home.
After a few toxic relationships and terrible heartbreaks, I’ve learned the hard way that being alone/single is far, far better than being with the wrong person or someone incompatible. But I don’t think I understood just how wonderful life can be with the right person…
- To feel so safe, secure, and loved all the time
- To be myself 100% and accepted for who I am
- To want to be the best versions of ourselves with each other
This year I’ve learned that there is freedom and abundance in a healthy, loving relationship. There is also consistency, empathy, and respect. Regardless of what happens to us in the future, this is the standard I will hold from now on.
I share this part of my 2021 because it has changed or reaffirmed the way I view so many relationships and aspects of life. I surround myself with people who love generously, who put others first. I seek friendships that are a two-way street and never leave me guessing. I try my best to keep the voice inside my own head kind and self-affirming.
In fact, so many of my favorite things this year — books, movies, trips, and memories — all came from a place of love, deeply rooted in the same themes:
Tuesdays With Morrie: One of the most inspiring books I read this year. “Love each other or perish” is Morrie’s favorite line by poet W. H. Auden, and it serves as the guiding philosophy of his life. He believes there is nothing as important as strong relationships with your friends, family, and community.
Humans: I had a conversation with my boss earlier this year about how hard it is to feel connected with others during a pandemic. We discovered that we both read ‘Humans of New York’ weekly to peer outside of our bubble and hold onto hope for humanity. It was fitting that when I finally met her the first time, she gifted me the international version: ‘Humans.’
Blue Bayou: As a Korean-American adoptee living in Louisiana, Antonio struggles heavily with his identity. Many heavy themes are explored in this film, from family separation to abandonment. Yet, despite his own issues, Antonio does whatever it takes to stay in the US with his wife and daughter.
Encanto: I’m a sucker for any stories about family, but Disney’s Encanto goes a step deeper by exploring immigrant struggles, generational trauma, belonging, and acceptance. Emotional and heartwarming, it might be a kid’s movie, but it made me cry.
Sedona: One of the highlights of this year was a double date trip to Arizona. Not only were the views stunning, but the company was 10/10. We went with a couple who has been together since college, and seeing how they interact (full of joy, laughter, bickering, and deep discussions) made us think about our own couple identity and how we want to operate as a duo.
Mexico: My best friend got married earlier this year, so we had a belated bachelor/bachelorette celebration with the entire wedding party. Not only was it one of the BEST, most epic trips I’ve been on…it was so wholesome. There’s nothing like celebrating the love of two people you love dearly :’)
Christmas: Since my family is usually out of town during the holidays, we don’t have many traditions. This Christmas, however, we stayed home so we tried to be more festive. I brought my boyfriend back to hang out with my family, and we showed him all of our favorite food and games. The cherry on top was dressing up with my parents and making a fun holiday TikTok:
Overall, 2021 was kind to me. I thought I was done with major life changes for a while, but lots of big things happened. I moved to a lovely apartment on the Westside, started a kickass new job, and got a permanent schedule for teaching yoga. Still, as exciting as all of those things were, they were secondary and paled in comparison to the quality time I spent with my favorite people.
When I watched The First Wave, I kept coming back to the healthcare professionals who treated patients like their own relatives. For each individual battling COVID-19, there was a squad of doctors and nurses fighting fiercely on their behalf. All the families wanted was more time with their loved ones, and these heroes did everything in their power to make that happen. I couldn’t stop thinking about their sacrifices: it’s one thing to love your family members, but another to love complete strangers. Those on the frontlines have bigger hearts than we could ever imagine.
It feels cheesy to say that 2021 taught me to love or the importance of love, but it’s not so far-fetched. Even when things were going well in my own life, my mood was often affected by negative news, and the only consolation was my family and friends. While I spent a majority of this year caring about the people closest to me, a goal for next year is to focus more on caring about people I don’t know, whether it’s through volunteering, donations, or simple acts of kindness. I feel like we all have the capacity to love more, and far beyond our bubble. Like so many brave souls have demonstrated on the frontlines, we can all treat strangers more like family.